The Zimbabwe African National Union – Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) is a Zimbabwean far-left party that was the ruling government in Zimbabwe since independence in 1980, led by Robert Mugabe, first as Prime Minister with the party simply known as ZANU, and then as President from 1988 after taking over ZAPU and retaining the name ZANU-PF. In the 2008 parliamentary election the ZANU-PF lost sole control of parliament for the first time in party history.

Zimbabwe African National Union

The Zimbabwe African National Union party was founded by Ndabaningi Sithole, Henry Hamadziripi, Mukudzei Midzi, Herbert Chitepo, Edgar Tekere and Leopold Takawira at the house of former Defence Minister Enos Nkala in Highfield in August 1963.[1] The minority Ndau followed Sithole into the moderate Zanu (Ndonga) party (known later as ZANU Mwenje), who renounced violent struggle, while the majority Shona followed Mugabe's ZANU with a more militant agenda.

During the 1980 independence elections, ZANU allied itself with the Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU) in the Patriotic Front (PF), the two parties adopting the names ZANU-PF and PF-ZAPU respectively, but they split after achieving majority rule.

In December 1987, after five years of low-level civil war termed Gukurahundi, the opposition ZAPU, led by Joshua Nkomo, was absorbed through the unity accord into ZANU-PF,[2] in what was seen as a step towards a one-party state.

Patriotic Front (PF)

The Patriotic Front (PF) was originally formed in 1976 as a political and military alliance between ZAPU and ZANU during the war against white minority rule in Zimbabwe (then called Rhodesia). The Patriotic Front included ZAPU led by Joshua Nkomo operating mainly from Zambia, and ZANU (Zimbabwe National People's Union) led by Robert Mugabe and operated mainly from neighboring Mozambique. Both movements contributed their respective military forces: ZAPU's military wing was known as Zimbabwe People's Revolutionary Army (ZIPRA) and ZANU's guerrillas where known as Zimbabwe African National Liberation Army (ZANLA). The objective of the Patriotic Front was to overthrow the white minority regime of Ian Smith by means of political pressure and military force.

Their common goal was achieved in 1980 with the formal independence of Zimbabwe. During the 1980 election campaign the Patriotic Front alliance partners split into their respective factions and competed separately as ZANU-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) and Patriotic Front-ZAPU (ZAPU-PF). The election was won by Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF, with Joshua Nkomo and his PF-ZAPU retaining a stronghold in the province of Matabeleland.

In December 1987 a Unity Accord was signed between the two parties; PF-ZAPU was merged into ZANU-PF, effectively establishing a one-party state dominated by Robert Mugabe and ZANU-PF. Joshua Nkomo became one of two vice-presidents of Zimbabwe.




Officially, ZANU-PF is socialist in ideology, and is modeled on communist parties in other countries. The party maintains a politburo.[3] However, the party had abandoned much of the egalitarian aspects associated with conventional Communist Party practice, instead choosing to pursue a mixed economy. But Mugabe has since pursued a more populist approach on the issue of land redistribution: encouraging seizure of large farms—usually owned by members of the white minority—"for the benefit of landless black peasants." Nevertheless, critics of this policy argue that it is to maintain his grip on power as supporters of his government directly benefit from their personal gains of land redistribution far more than the landless population.[4]

He has also faced a major political challenge from the opposition Movement for Democratic Change. Mugabe won 56.0% at the presidential elections of 9 March – 11 March 2002.

At the December 2004 five-year conference, Joyce Mujuru, a Zezeru Shona like Mugabe and whose husband Solomon Mujuru is the retired head of the armed forces, was elevated to the post of vice-president of the party (the first woman to hold that office) at the expense of contender Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa and his backer Jonathan Moyo the information minister and Emmerson Mnangagwa the former speaker of parliament.

The 2005 Zimbabwe parliamentary elections were held on March 31, 2005. The party won 59.6% of the popular vote and 78 out of 120 elected seats. Later that year, 26 November, it won 43 of 50 elected senators. The parliamentary election was disputed as being unfair. The leader of the opposition MDC party said, "We are deeply disturbed by the fraudulent activities we have unearthed", and various human rights groups reported that hundreds of thousands of "ghost voters" had appeared on the electoral roll of 5.8 million people.[5]

In the 2008 parliamentary election, the ZANU-PF lost its majority in parliament for the first time, holding 94 seats out of the expanded 210 seats.[6]

In the 2008 presidential election, Morgan Tsvangirai, the MDC candidate, received the most votes but did not receive an absolute majority, thus a runoff was necessary. Initial results led to MDC-T claiming the majority necessary. However, ballots were recounted at a National Command Centre over a period of several days without the presence of independent observers. The election process that followed was marred by more violence against and intimidation of voters and party workers. Morgan Tsvangirai initially stated he intended to contest the second round but pulled out of the run off saying a free and fair election was impossible in the current climate. The elections were held on June 27 with a single candidate, Robert Mugabe, who was reelected.

Many blame ZANU-PF for neglecting to deal with Zimbabwe's problem with the mounting 2008 Zimbabwean cholera outbreak, which by the start of December 2008 had already killed between 500 and 3,000 people.[7]

SADC facilitation of government power-sharing agreement, 15 September 2008

President of South Africa Thabo Mbeki facilitated, under the auspices of SADC, a Zimbabwean Government of Power-Sharing between ZANU-PF, the Movement for Democratic Change – Tsvangirai and the Movement for Democratic Change – Mutambara.

Split of re-organized ZAPU

In November 2008, a group of former ZAPU members, most of them hailing from Bulawayo, left ZANU-PF and re-established the ZAPU party:

  1. Former ZAPU members and Ndebele being left out in the discussions between the two Movement for Democratic Change formations and ZANU-PF.
  2. Unhappiness with the sacking of Dumiso Dabengwa from the politburo because he supported Simba Makoni in the 2008 presidential election.
  3. Lack of development in Bulawayo province, including the lack of progress on the Matabeleland Zambezi Water Project.
  4. ZAPU cadres not considered for burial at the national heroes acre
  5. The issue of succession.


  1. Sibanda, Eliakim (2005). The Zimbabwe African People's Union 1961-87: A Political History of Insurgency in Southern Rhodesia, p. 321.
  2. "Zimbabwean political flags" at FOTW.
  3. Zanu-PF official site.
  4. "Power to the Mob". Time
  5. Mugabe's party sweeps to victory. BBC News.
  6. "Mugabe's Zanu-PF loses majority", BBC News, 3 April 2008. 
  7. "Zimbabwe cholera death toll nears 500", CNN, 2 December 2008. Retrieved on 2008-12-02. 
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